Putin and Berlusconi meet in Crimea

Italy's ex-PM Silvio Berlusconi arrived on a private visit to Crimea earlier on Friday after spending two days in Sochi.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi met on Friday at a memorial near Mount Gasfort in the vicinity of the Crimean city of Sevastopol.

The memorial is dedicated to soldiers of the Sardinian Kingdom killed in the Crimean War of 1853-1856.

Berlusconi arrived on a private visit to Crimea earlier on Friday after spending two days in Sochi.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists on Wednesday that Putin could meet with Berlusconi soon to discuss bilateral and international issues.

"We do not rule out the possibility that a personal meeting between Berlusconi and Russian President Vladimir Putin may take place one of these days," Peskov said.

Peskov recalled that Berlusconi and the Russian leader maintained long-term business and friendly relationships. Their talks could focus not only on bilateral issues of Russian-Italian ties but also on developments in the international arena, the spokesman said, noting also that Putin and Berlusconi could exchange views on most "pressing regional problems".

"Any contacts with politicians and government officials having such rank as Berlusconi - no matter whether they are incumbent politicians or non-incumbent ones - are certainly a matter of diplomacy," Peskov said, adding that these were important contacts and the Russian president "attaches great significance to them".

Putin and Berlusconi held an active dialogue when the Italian politician led the country’s government. After Berlusconi’s resignation, the leaders have maintained friendly relations.

In an interview with Italy’s Il Corriere della Sera ahead of his visit to Milan, Putin said he finds it easy to have friendly relations with Italy’s former Prime Ministers Silvio Berlusconi and Romano Prodi because they have always been guided by the interests of their country.

"No matter what posts we occupy or what our jobs are, we are still human, and personal trust is certainly a very important factor in our work, in building relations on the interstate level," Putin said.

He said it was not difficult for him to maintain friendly relations with the two former prime ministers. "I still don’t find it difficult, and I can tell you why. My Italian partners have always put the interests of Italy, of the Italian people, first and believed that in order to serve the interests of their country, including economic and political interests, they must maintain friendly relations with Russia," he said. "We have always understood and felt that."

"This has been the key element underlying our good relations. I have always sensed a truly sincere interest in building interstate relations irrespective of the domestic political situation," he said.

First published by TASS.

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